California Schools Incentivized to Mask & Vax Students with $15 Billion in Federal Aid: ‘ESSER III’

The ‘ESSER III Fund’ gives $15,079,696,097 to California schools that commit to “universal and correct wearing of masks,” “diagnostic and screening testing,” and “efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities.”

  • In response to Covid-19, the U.S. Congress passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act signed into law on March 11, 2021, according to the California Department of Education website.
  • The website explains that local education agencies receive ARP funding primarily through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER).
  • “The main funding source for local educational agencies (LEAs) in the ARP Act is the ESSER III Fund,” the site says. “The ESSER III Fund accounts for nearly $122 billion of funding for all states and California’s allocation is $15,079,696,097.”
  • But local education bodies may only receive this funding if they follow specific guidelines and “describe” their “plan” to “maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policies, on each of the following safety recommendations established by the Center for Disease Control (CDC),” the site explains.
  • Moreover, the ARP Act requires LEAs that receive ESSER III funds to “complete a Safe Return to In-person Instruction and Continuity of Services plan.”
  • Requirements set by the plan include “universal and correct wearing of masks,” “contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine,” “diagnostic and screening testing,” and “efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities.”
  • In order to receive this funding, school bodies must be in compliance with the requirements listed above and more (see the full list of requirements below).
Screenshot from taken January 18, 2022
Screenshot from taken January 18, 2022
  • Universal and correct wearing of masks.
  • Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/ podding).
  • Handwashing and respiratory etiquette.
  • Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation.
  • Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments.
  • Diagnostic and screening testing.
  • Efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities.
  • Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies.
  • Coordination with State and local health officials.
Screenshot from taken January 18, 2022
  • Nicole C. Pearson, a lawyer based in Newport Beach, California and founder of Facts Law Truth Justice, LLP, told American Faith on Tuesday that giving schools billions of dollars in return for those schools enforcing Covid-19 mandates upon children is “even more than a conflict of interest.”
  • “We have a serious, serious problem,” Pearson said. “These schools were thinking ‘Free money! Free money!’ But what they didn’t realize is that when they signed this paperwork, there were terms and conditions attached that must be satisfied unless they want to lose their schools. That money is nowhere close to free.”
  • She went on to argue that when these school officials, board members, principals, and teachers act in a “reckless” way by accepting this money, they can be held “personally liable.”
  • “We’re going to be able to come after you as an individual,” Pearson said, adding that her firm would “never settle with you. Because our goal is not to make any money. Our goal is to expose each of you for the fraud you’ve committed. And we will show that none of this is backed by science. You’ve put a price tag on our children’s heads. These poor schools have no idea what they signed themselves up for,” she said.
  • Pearson concluded by saying these school officials can still “be on the right side of history if they admit they are wrong and refuse to go along with this social experiment that is costing our children’s health, their education, their lives, and their futures.”
  • The U.S. Department of Education published an Interim Final Requirements (IFR) on April 22, 2021 that outlines several requirements for all LEAs that receive ESSER III funds.
  • The document explains how the American Rescue Plan provided nearly $122 billion through the ESSER fund to be sent to State educational agencies that submit to the requirements listed above. “This template has been created to assist LEAs in the creation of these plans and to ensure all required elements are met,” the document reads.
  • Every state has access to ESSER III funds if they submit to the requirements.
  • For more information on the CARES Act, the California Department of Education (CDE) recommends visiting the CARES Act Funding web page.
  • Facts Law Truth Justice, LLP provides online resources available to the public including videos, toolkits, templates, draft letters, and references. You can subscribe here to receive updates on new tools and resources from the firm. And you can follow them on Instagram (and here).